Hedley Steele, the son of a professional footballer, made seven league and cup appearances for Exeter City in the 1974/75 season. Leaving to play for Dorchester Town, he later enjoyed a long career with a number of clubs most notably Tiverton Town for whom he appeared in a FA Vase final. Playing regularly into his fifties he made an emergency substitute appearance for Willand Rovers at the age of sixty. His son David also played for Tiverton and later managed Willand.
Born in Barnsley, Hedley moved to Tiverton with his family. His father Ernie Steele was a professional footballer before the war with Rochdale, Oldham, Torquay United, Notts County, Crystal Palace and Millwall who managed Tiverton and looked after the ground in addition to having been a good club cricketer.
Hedley joined Exeter City as an amateur in 1972 and, having appeared for the recently-reformed reserve team, signed professionally in July 1974. Making his debut soon afterwards at Barnsley of all places on 17 August 1974, most of his eventual seven appearances (six league, one League Cup) for the first-team came over the following six weeks before a stress fracture hampered his progress. Similarly sidelined by injury during the following season, he was released in the summer of 1976.
Hedley then embarked on a successful career in semi-professional football starting with seven seasons at Dorchester Town, where he gained FA and Southern League Representative honours, before moving on to Weymouth (managed by former Exeter boss Brian Godfrey) following a short stint at Elmore. Later joined at the Dorset club by Peter and Martyn Rogers, he subsequently spent a season with Gloucester City before signing for Tiverton Town in 1988.
Having first appeared for Tivvy as a teenager, he became a key figure in exciting times as the club won promotion and reached the first round of the FA Cup and the final of the FA Vase. After winning a national non-league player ‘merit’ award in 1993, he later played for Willand Rovers, Elmore, Topsham Town and Cullompton Rangers in a playing career that continued into his early fifties (with one substitute appearance for Willand at the age of sixty). By his own estimation Hedley eventually appeared in more than 1300 matches.
Invariably coaching and managing whilst still playing, he looked after the Tiverton team that knocked Exeter City out of the FA Youth Cup and the Devon senior representative team in addition to working in Exeter City’s centres of excellence. He then managed Bickleigh (when the club was in the Peninsula League), spent time as assistant-manager at Tiverton, coached at Willand and managed Cullompton.
Hedley’s son David enjoyed a long career himself notably at Tiverton, Bideford and Willand where he became manager..